Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Co-op Composition Class

I'm teaching composition again at co-op this year. Now, we need to "cover" the units in the k-12 curriculum...since our co-op is formed of families all using the same curriculum.

Here's the curriculum's list of topics:
Introduction to the Paragraph
Personal Narrative
Compare and Contrast Essay
Persuasive Essay
Research Report
How-to Essay
Book Review

Not only are none of these units "fun" or creative, but many of these units are the same as what we did last year. I know if we just do *another* compare-contrast essay, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Including mine. I'm also not very fond of doing a big research paper every year.

I'm thinking of changing some of the units in the following ways...

Compare and Contrast Essay. Last year, I had them pick two figures from American history to compare and contrast. Everyone did it and did a great job. No one liked it. It was, in fact, universally the least liked writing assignment. This year, I want to shake it up some. I could give the students the choice of picking two similar fictional characters OR of picking a movie based on a book to compare/contrast. Last year, our focus was on the organization of the compare/contrast essay. This year, I think our focus will be on how the differences are significant. Why did the movie differ from the book? What purpose did that accomplish? Did it add to or detract from the story? Did it change your perception of the main character?

Research Paper, Persuasive Essay, and Advertisement. Strange as it may sound, I think we're going to combine these three units. We're going to do a version of a "million dollar project". Suppose you had the opportunity to be awarded a million dollar grant, with the condition that the money be used on a project that would help others or make our country, state, or community a better place. Your assignment, identify and research a need. Demonstrate your understanding of the need by writing a brief essay about it. Then, write a brief proposal of how your project would address that need. Research how much the project would cost to implement, and include specific figures and data to back up your figures. (Print real estate listing from the internet, cut out price of furniture from store adds, etc.) Finally, put together a display board and brief "pitch" to present your proposal to others. That's a lot of work. Parents may lynch me.

<< edit to add: I had Sweetling read my blog. She's nixing this idea. I'm writing an alternate proposal down below.

Book Review. Again, we did these last year. We did them at the very end of the year, and I let the kids write a single paragraph on a book they would recommend to their peers for summer reading. Then each student got a copy of each paragraph, and I had them glue it in their summer journal as a "suggested summer reading" list. We *could* do the same this year. It was a nice, easy, year-end assignment.

How-to Essay. I want them to have the option of picking something fun for this. How to Raise and Keep a Dragon pops instantly to mind. Hmmmm...How to Attract Beneficial Fairies to Your Garden. How to Locate and Positively Identify a Forest Gnome Community. How to Contact and Communicate with Aliens. Or more realistic, but kid-friendly topics. How to Build an Awesome Fort. How to Predict the Weather. How to Pull Off the Best April Fool's Day Pranks Ever. Yeah, yeah, we can totally do this unit.

Personal Narrative. I think I'll leave this one alone as well. It's good to have the opportunity to relate the details of your life in written form. Just look at the proliferation of personal blogs all over the internet. At best, I'll introduce two new styles and let them pick a genre to do their writing in. Standard narrative form, free-floating verse (think Out of the Dust), or dairy/journal entry format.

<< edit to add ...>>

New proposal for the...
Research Paper, Persuasive Essay, and Advertisement

Suppose your family is one of a few final contestants in a contest to win two thousand dollars per family member to spend on a vacation or a trip. The prize money will be awarded by a national magazine based on which family can put together the most memorable and educational family vacation with the money. You, as well as any older siblings you might have, get to help your family compete in the last stages of the contest by writing about where you should go and how you should spend the trip money.

First, research a location, or a route for a possible trip. Learn about educational opportunities presented there, historical sites, local national monuments, etc. Write a brief article (to submit to the magazine) about your destination. You should include the history of the destination, important facts, as well as the points of interest you researched. Put together a trip itinerary and a budget detailing how your family would spend the money. (Use the internet to research prices or write state travel agencies for travel brochures.)

Second, write a persuasive essay about why your family's proposed vacation would make a great series of articles for the magazine. Include how it would be educational for both your family as well as the magazine readers. Or how it would teach about important character values and be a good example to others. What would make it different from any other family vacation?

Last, put together a winning "front page" for the magazine's feature article about your. Use pictures, a catchy title for the article, and a sentence or two that will really grab the readers' interest (and make them want to buy the magazine to read about your trip.)

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Jonathan actually enjoyed the compare/contrast essay. I don't know if the parents will lynch you, but the kids may throw things at you :)